by: Pat McGrath [ ]
IntroductionA set like this one has been eagerly sought after by modelers for many years since Commonwealth figure kits in plastic are still thin on the ground. The set depicts 6 marching soldiers in fighting order; an NCO with a Thompson SMG, a Bren gunner, and 4 riflemen. All six figures are dressed in the Khaki Drill tropical uniform and 4 wear KD shorts together with long woolen socks and leather ankle boots with cloth puttees while the remaining two wear long KD trousers.
There were some moans and groans about how this set didnít show the diversity of uniforms worn by Commonwealth troops in the Italian campaign but my attitude was that this kit would be very welcome and would give us something to build on. Now that Iíve opened the box and scrutinized the contents do I still feel the same way? Read on.
The KitOkay first the good news, although the box art shows only 6 figures, the contents of the kit provide parts enough for 8. We get two identical A sprues, each containing parts enough for 4 figures. We get a separate sprue containing two sets of legs wearing long KD trousers. By mixing and matching these and parts from the second A sprue we can make up the two additional figures. This leaves enough parts to make two additional figures.
The instructions come on a separate full color sheet with Illustrations by Ron Volstad showing which parts to use to make up the six figures. Paint references for Gunze Sangyo and Mr. Color are included. The instructions show weapon slings although none are included in the kit.
There is enough equipment for the two additional figs also. On the A sprue together with figure parts we get the following equipment:
4 water bottles
8 universal pouches
4 entrenching tools
4 "Pig StickerĒ bayonets
1 sword bayonet
1 sword bayonet scabbard
4 rolled groundsheets
A pair of binoculars
4 helmets with nets
1 tool wallet for a Bren gun,
1 officer's map case
2 pistol holsters
1 open top pistol holster
1 small pouch (either a pistol ammo pouch or a compass pouch)
16 individual pockets to be made up into rifle ammo bandoliers
4 mess tins in water bottle sleeves
So enough equipment there for 8 figures which covers the two additional figs also.
I have to admit that I had no idea what part 10, the mess tin in a water bottle sleeve, was. So I asked myself who would know and then I emailed Ron Volstad. He told me it was common practice for Canadian troops to carry their mess tins in water bottle sleeves on their left hip (shown on the box art) as part of their fighting order as they were still able to carry some food even when leaving their small packs behind. I donít know if other Commonwealth troops did this but it is possible. Speaking of small packs it would have been nice if some were included, there were some nice ones in the 8th Army set.
The breakdown of parts is along Dragonís usual lines with each figure made up of head, upper torso, separate legs and separate arms. Anatomically the figures are very good and the head for fig 4 (D1) is particlar good as we get almost the full head as his helmet is shown pushed back.. The sprue attachment points on the arms and legs are very big and will need careful cleanup. On one of my figure sprues the upper torso pieces all had crazing lines, something I havenít seen on Dragon figures in a while. Three of the figures are shown wearing slung ammo bandoliers and the straps for these are molded on the figures and will have to be removed if the bandoliers are not used.
All the figures and equipment have sharp details, but the bad news is that these details are sometimes wrong. One mistake in the uniforms that is repeated from the 8th Army set is that the figures are all wearing their puttees backwards. The V shape should be pointing towards the back and not the front. An even bigger mistake is that the webbing straps are shown with buckles on the rear and attaching to the inside of the rear of the web belt. In reality the belt has two buckles stitched to the outside centre rear of the belt.
I know this because I was issued a filthy set of 1937 pattern webbing (as worn by Commonwealth troops in WW2) to clean up and wear as a recruit in the Irish Army in the 80s. Now maybe Dragonís sculptors didnít have that privilege and indeed Ron Volstadís excellent Box art illustration shows only the front of the figures, but they could have asked him and there is such a thing as research. It took me about thirty seconds to find an example of '37 pattern webbing on the Internet and even less to find a reference book for it on Amazon.
To me this lack of research on Dragonís part is inexcusable and especially so since they got this detail right in the 8th army set. If they can, and do, research the uniforms and equipment of particular German units at precise times during the war surely they could get the detail right on a web belt that was issued to nearly every Commonwealth soldier during WW2? Even the ancient Tamiya Desert Rats set has this detail correct.
Other shortcomings on the equipment are held over from the 8th Army set. The holsters, not shown as being worn by any of the figures in the instructions, are the same strange shape of older leather holsters. The Helmets are very deep and have the same too prominent rivet on the top showing through the net.
Weapons We get two identical sprues from the 6605 British Commonwealth Troops (NW Europe 1944) set with a Bren, two MkIV SMLEs, and a Sten. We also get a sprue from one of the US Gen 2 sets containing a Thompson SMG and an M1 carbine.
ConclusionOkay, by now youíll have gathered that Iím disappointed with this set. It does give modelers of Commonwealth troops a lot to work with but in comparison to recent German and American Gen 2 sets it leaves a lot to be desired. Iíve reread my ďRantĒ about the webbing and I donít think Iím making too big a deal of it - all the info Dragon needed to make this set perfect is readily available on the net and itís a mystery to me why they didnít avail of it.